New International Trade Crossing

Dilapidated homes in Delray near Detroit.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Delray is a neighborhood in southwest Detroit.  People who live here are surrounded by heavy industry. A proposed new bridge to Canada is planned to land in the Delray neighborhood.  The construction could change how the neighborhood looks.  It’s estimated that thousands more trucks will pass by the neighborhood every day.

When we visited one recent summer evening, a bunch of kids were climbing on a playground. Two of them were playing tag, laughing and running themselves breathless.

But just past the red and yellow playground are two tall smoke stacks. If you look closely, you can see a green haze creeping out of them.

Simone Sagovac is with Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision. The non-profit group has been working to clean up southwest Detroit for 20 years.

“People who come to visit here from the EPA, from around the country, say that it's one of the worst places they've ever been to.”

Elaine Ezekiel / Michigan Radio

The Board of State Canvassers deadlocks on the ballot proposal that would require public votes to construct a new international bridge. The measure is backed by the owners of the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, who are trying to block a competing bridge. They could now go to court to get on the ballot.

Jim Wallace / flickr.com

The owners of the Ambassador Bridge are trying to renew an environmental permit for a proposed twin span.

The twin span idea has been rejected by both Governor Snyder and Canadian officials. They’ve already signed a deal to build a new bridge, the so-called New International Trade Crossing, further downriver.

(Updated)

A newly created group is challenging a ballot petition that would require a vote on future international bridge and tunnel crossings.

The group Taxpayers Against Monopolies supports a New International Trade Crossing between Detroit and Windsor, so it’s challenging a ballot petition filed by The People Should Decide which is supported by the Ambassador Bridge owners, the Moroun family.

The ballot petition would require a vote on all international crossings that use any taxpayer money.

Dilapidated homes in Delray near Detroit.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The fight between Governor Rick Snyder and Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun about a new bridge connecting Detroit and Canada will be in the news for the foreseeable future. What’s often lost in the arguments is the people of the Detroit neighborhood where the new bridge will land.

Elaine Ezekiel / Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder is pushing for a new $2 billion bridge from Detroit to Canada. The owners of the 83-year-old Ambassador Bridge are fighting to stop that new bridge. The latest move is to get a constitutional amendment calling for a vote of the people before building any new bridge to cross the border. That will give the company another avenue to delay or stop the new bridge from being built.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The arguments for and against building a new bridge to Canada at Detroit, for the most part, have been pretty one-sided. The owners of the Ambassador Bridge are fighting it and spending tons of money in TV ads. 

If you watch TV at all, you’ve probably seen one of the Ambassador Bridge-sponsored ads criticizing plans for a new bridge.

“Governor Snyder says, ‘Send Canada the bill.’ But, the Canadians have other ideas.”

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

There’s been a lot of confusion about how much a new bridge across the Canadian border at Detroit might cost taxpayers. TV ads say it will cost Michigan taxpayers $100 million a year. The governor says it will cost Michigan nothing.

http://buildthedricnow.com

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says we need a new bridge to Canada. It will mean more trade and more and better jobs. Not everyone agrees, especially the owners of the single bridge in Detroit which connects Michigan to Canada.

Eight thousand trucks a day cross the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

Jim Wallace / flickr.com

A group that opposes efforts to build a new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor says it’s well on its way to putting that question on the November ballot.

“The People Should Decide Ballot committee” says it’s collected more than 420,000 petition signatures in favor of a voter referendum.

If passed, the measure would implement a constitutional amendment requiring Michigan voters to approve any new international crossings.

Governor Snyder and Canadian officials signed an agreement to build a new crossing just last week. That's after Snyder's efforts to get the project through the state legislature failed last year.

Jim Wallace / flickr.com

A new bridge crossing connecting Detroit and Windsor, Ontario will create more than 8,000 permanent jobs, according to a new study.

The study comes from the Ann Arbor-based Center for Automotive Research, an industry-sponsored group.

Jim Wallace / flickr.com

A new report from a Washington-based watchdog group finds Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun spending a lot of money to influence Congress.

The group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington--or CREW--tracked campaign donations from Moroun’s family, company, and associates.

Their examination of campaign finance data found more than $1.5 million in Congressional donations from 2004 through the first quarter of 2012.

There’s been a long-running conflict about whether to build a second bridge connecting Detroit and Canada.

Now, the company that owns the Ambassador Bridge says voters should decide the issue.

The Detroit International Bridge Company says the Ambassador Bridge is enough. The DIBC has butted heads with Governor Snyder and state officials, who favor building a new crossing.

Now, the Bridge Company says it wants to put the issue before voters. They want the State Board of Canvassers to authorize language for a petition drive.

It states:

user dherrera_96 / Flickr

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is determined to build a new bridge between Windsor and Detroit.

More from the CBC:

He is also frustrated with Matty Moroun, the billionaire owner of the Ambassador Bridge, one of two crossings in Windsor.

Norris Wong / Flickr

One legal expert says only Congress—not the state—can authorize a new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor.

Constitutional law professor Robert Sedler was one speaker at a Wayne State University law school panel discussion about the bridge’s future Tuesday.

Sedler says Congress, exercising its authority over international commerce, granted the company that owns the Ambassador Bridge a franchise—and would have to do so again in the case of a new crossing.

Jim Wallace / Flickr

A Judge has found the company that owns the Ambassador Bridge in contempt of court.

Update 2:17 p.m.

Here's an update from the Associated Press with reaction from the Ambassador Bridge owners:

DETROIT (AP) - The company that owns the Ambassador Bridge says a judge is wrong to find it in contempt for failing to finish work on a project linking the U.S.-Canada span with two Detroit interstates.

Wayne County Judge Prentis Edwards will wait until Jan. 12 to order a penalty, but he wants bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Maroun at that hearing.

Detroit International Bridge Company says piers have been properly built and more work will be completed by January. It says it will appeal the judge's contempt order announced Thursday.

The state of Michigan sued the company after it failed to meet a deadline to finish its part of a $230 million project to improve traffic at the bridge linking Detroit and Ontario.

Mike Russell / wikimedia commons

Governor Rick Snyder said the state needs to invest more money in its roads and bridges, and he said he’ll continue to push for a new, publicly owned bridge linking Detroit and Canada.

Snyder made the remarks in a special message to the Legislature today.

He said a new international bridge will help create jobs and more markets for Michigan products.

“We’ve had some setbacks, but again, following my philosophy of relentless positive action we are going to stay relentless because I believe it’s in the best interest of all our citizens… You couldn’t find a better partner in the world than to partner with our neighbors in Canada and build a bridge,” said Snyder.

Governor Snyder wants lawmakers to find nearly $1.5 billion in additional revenue to help pay for road and bridge repairs and maintenance.  He says one way to fund that would be to eliminate the 15-cent fuel tax at the pump in exchange for a wholesale gasoline tax.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Supporters and opponents of the new international bridge from Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, are still debating the merits of the proposal nearly a week after the bridge plan failed to get enough support in the state legislature.

Thomas Hawk / Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder’s administration is looking how it might move forward construction of a new international bridge connecting Detroit and Canada without the approval of the Legislature.

A measure necessary to project died today (Thursday) in a state Senate committee, and Republican leaders say it appears the bridge project cannot win legislative approval.

But the new Detroit bridge remains central to Snyder’s long-term plans to make Michigan a Chicago-to-Montreal transportation corridor. Geralyn Lasher is the governor’s spokeswoman. She said the administration is considering its options.

"We have to look at it all, and we will look at it all very closely now because –very disappointed about today. It’s too important to jobs, it’s too important for Michigan. It’s too important to really say goodbye to this kind of money that we can leverage to all parts of our state to fix roads, to fix bridges, and to move forward," said Lasher.

The bridge was also going to be used to leverage millions of dollars in federal road and bridge money for projects across the state.

Lasher says there is a lot of misinformation being spread about the project.

An independent watchdog group called ads being aired statewide by bridge opponents “flagrantly” false.

user Gradys Kitchen / flickr

Governor Rick Snyder and state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) will meet this afternoon to discuss what should happen next with a stalled international bridge project proposal.

Richardville says he could potentially move the proposal to build a second bridge between Detroit and Canada out of the committee where it has failed thus far to gain enough support to move to the Senate floor.

Richardville has suggested moving the proposal to his own Government Operations Committee.

State Senator Mike Kowall (R-White Lake) chairs the committee currently handling the proposal. 

“I don’t want it to go to Government Ops. I started it, I want to finish it. I want to see it through to the end. Ultimately I don’t have a lot of authority to tell the majority leader what to do,” he said.

Kowall said he thinks the bridge proposal would face just as many hurdles on the Senate floor as it is in his committee to gain approval:

“Oh that’s just a microcosm of what’s going on, there’s a lot of discussion here, in caucus, outside, all over. So there’s a lot of discussion.” 

He continued:

“You ever go to the dentist and have a root canal done? Well it’s always a good thing when it’s over with, so I liken this to a root canal. No, I’d like it to be over one way or the other.” 

Kowall said one of the issues creating some division is whether a bridge proposal should include a measure to help members of the community that would be displaced at the new bridge location in Detroit.   

Governor Sndyer says he wants the issue approved by the end of the year.

A proposal to build a second bridge between Detroit and Canada appears to be the cause of a fierce divide among Republicans in the state Senate.

The chairman of the committee handling the proposal does not seem to have enough support among Republican colleagues to vote on the issue.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said if that’s the case he will most likely take on the issue in a committee he chairs and move it along quickly.

“I don’t think we would need to take as much time to go through all the detail, but we have been following the process, we’ve been following the information, so we would still take a hard look at it and take some open testimony, but we’re not going to rehash everything that’s been done for the last nine months,” said Richardville.

Richardville says misinformation floating around in television ads and brochures have made the bridge issue more confusing and frustrating than it should be. He says the Senate could vote on the proposal within a couple weeks.

Jim Wallace / Flickr

State Republican leaders say they hope to move forward in October with a proposal to build a publically owned second bridge between Detroit and Canada.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley says a second bridge would benefit businesses throughout the state.

"Those entities that make things here, be they automobiles, furniture, chemicals, cereal or baby food or even Slinkys, all these things we make in Michigan, and agricultural products as well, Canadians buy more of that than anybody else in the world," said Calley.

He says a publically owned bridge that connects major highways on both sides of the river would keep exports streaming into Canada from Michigan.

Calley was on Mackinac Island over the weekend for a Michigan Republican Party conference.

He lobbied for the bridge project while there saying the bridge project is a conservative one that will be attractive to Republicans and Democrats alike.

The proposal has been unpopular with some Republicans who think a second bridge should be built by a private company. The owner of the existing bridge in Detroit was also at the Michigan Republican Party conference on Mackinac Island to try to influence lawmakers oppose a publically owned bridge.

Calley says he and Governor Rick Snyder are not deterred by campaigning against the project by the company that owns the existing bridge in Detroit.

"[We're] making very steady progress and feel good about the track that it's on right now," said Calley. "It's really always been more a matter of getting through all of the garbage on the TV ads, and simply articulating what the proposal is."

Calley says one of the biggest hurdles they face is countering the influence of the multi-million dollar ad campaign. The campaign is paid for by the owners of the existing Ambassador Bridge.

Anderson Economic Group

A report from the Anderson Economic Group has offered some clarity to the debate over a new international bridge crossing between Detroit and Windsor.

A little background in case you have sat this story out thus far:

Governor Rick Snyder has been pushing the idea of a new bridge two miles south of the Ambassador Bridge, known as the New International  Trade Crossing (NITC).

It would connect up I-75 and Highway 401 in Canada.

The Ambassador Bridge owners, the Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC), don't want competition from another bridge. Owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun has been fighting against the proposed bridge with a $4.7 million television ad blitz.

The ads say Michigan taxpayers could be on the hook for the costs of the New International  Trade Crossing if plans don't pan out.

Moroun is proposing to build a second span next to the Ambassador Bridge to ease congestion.

The report from the Anderson Economic Group analyzes both proposals (NITC vs. DIBC).

The bottom line of the report from several media reports out today is that the new bridge (NITC) would ease congestion currently felt at the Detroit-Windsor crossing, and a second span of the Ambassador Bridge would not (DIBC).

It's finding no. 2 in the report.

From the Detroit Free Press:

The Detroit International Bridge Co.'s proposed second bridge between Detroit and Canada would not eliminate the current congestion on both sides of the border but the New International Trade Crossing bridge would do so, according to an independent study released today by the Anderson Economic Group.

From Crain's Detroit Business:

A proposed government-owned bridge over the Detroit River, with additional U.S. Customs booths, would do a better job reducing border traffic congestion and handling future traffic than a second Ambassador Bridge span, says a new independent report released today.

From the Detroit News:

A proposed bridge two miles south of the Ambassador Bridge would alleviate border congestion, but a new span beside the Ambassador would not, according to a study released Tuesday.

Finding no. 3 in the report states that the obligation to repay borrowed funds for the construction costs of either bridge does not rest with Michigan taxpayers. That finding assumes that protections for Michigan taxpayers are in place for "statute and bond covenants."

Jeff Watrick over at MLive has a nice summary of the 7 findings of the report.

Or you can read the report yourself.

Let us know what stands out to you.

J.Stephen Conn / Flickr

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley is scheduled to meet with the Detroit City Council this afternoon to discuss a proposed new bridge that would span the Detroit River. Governor Snyder is pushing for the new bridge which would connect Detroit to Windsor, Ontario. Many state Republican lawmakers oppose the plan, known as the New International Trade Crossing. The owner of the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit to Ontario, and is the busiest international trade crossing in North America, opposes the plan as well. He wants to build a new span of his own.

As the Detroit Free Press explains this morning, “…just about everyone involved in Michigan's great bridge debate supports building some new bridge to replace or supplement the Ambassador. The question boils down to who would build it and own it -- Ambassador owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun as a private businessman or the citizens of Michigan and Canada through public authorities.”

As the Associated Press notes:

Gov. Rick Snyder and many businesses want to build a new Detroit-Windsor bridge to aid passenger and commercial traffic. It would be backed by private investors, and Michigan would rely on $550 million from Canada for related improvements.

It's likely Calley will use the meeting to try to gain support from the City Council for the New International Trade Crossing.

Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry has been writing extensively over the years about the bridge controversy:

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Add the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce to the growing list of people, organizations hoping to see the rebranded New International Trade Crossing become a reality.

Andrew Johnson is the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s Vice President of Government Affairs.

“We care about the bridge because 1 in 7 jobs in the Grand Rapids area is tied to exports. And the stronger trade we have between Michigan and Canada, the better it is for our West Michigan businesses.”

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